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Heavy traffic is sure to flow on I-395 as people prepare to leave the area for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Heavy traffic is sure to flow on I-395 as people prepare to leave the area for the Thanksgiving holiday. (Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post)

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The Flight Crew
Washington Post Travel Section
Monday, November 24, 2008; 2:00 PM

Got a travel-related question, comment, suspicion, warning, gripe, sad tale or happy ending? The Post Travel Section Flight Crew is at your service.

On the itinerary this week: holiday travel! Robert Thomson, a.k.a. Dr. Gridlock, joins the Flight Crew to discuss saving money, arriving safely, and staying sane through the busy holiday travel season. Whether you're looking for Dr. Gridlock's advice on alternative holiday routes, information about our local airports, dos and don'ts on what you can take in your carry-ons or the Flight Crew's suggestions on where to go for a restorative post-holiday getaway, you've come to the right place.

All other travel topics are open as well. If you have insights, ideas or information to add to the discussion, just press the call button above your seat and we'll get to you as soon as we can. Different members of the Crew will rotate through the captain's chair every week, but the one constant is you, our valued passengers.

We know you have a choice in online travel forums, and speaking for the entire Flight Crew, we want to thank you for flying with us.

A transcript follows.

You may also browse an archive of previous live travel discussions. For daily dispatches, check out Travel Log, the Travel section's new blog.

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Andrea Sachs: Are you ready for Thanksgiving and all of its trimmings and, yes, traffic? In two days and counting, Americans will grab their pie and hit the roads and sky for some pilgrim re-enactments. To help us get to dinner while the turkey is still hot, we have a special guest: Dr. Gridlock. So send him your routes and concerns, and of course ask us any travel questions, with or without gravy.

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Louisville, KY: Hello: I wanted to comment on two rail-related items of recent postings. 1)The lines in Italy can be very long and hot and language barriers can be a challenge; I recommend a rail pass for these reasons if the cost of point-to-points is anywhere near the cost of a pass. If time is limited, then the rail pass is the way to go. 2) Some grandparents recently said they are planning on taking their grandchildren on a rail journey to Canada. GREAT! We heartily endorse generations sharing this great mode of travel. However, the age of the children is very important. Sleeping accommodations on the trains can be very expensive, and the cross-Canada journey is, as you know, quite long. In my recommendations to our members, I recommend that travelers test out the kids on a one-night trip before they set out on a grand, multi-night, expensive one. Sincerely, Eleanor Hardy President, The Society of International Railway Travelers

Scott Vogel: Thanks for the insight. You make some good points, particularly about children and train travel. My 8-year-old, who accompanied me on my recent Montreal-Halifax trip, had the time of his life, and while he is not always the best traveling sleeper, he did just fine. Having said that, I don't believe I would have tried it with a child younger than 6 or so. There aren't play areas per se on trains, and the little ones can easily feel cooped up after a while.

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Arlington: I'm submitting early because I'll be on the road during your chat - I always enjoy them even though I can't take as many trips as I would like. We're having a problem thinking of where to go for the 4 day President's weekend through the inaugural. The requirements are that it be 1. warm, 2. have non-stop non-lengthy flights, and 3. be a spot that will keep a 16 year-old boy and his parents entertained. We go to Sanibel Island every Christmas, so we don't want to repeat the Florida west coast, and need something with a little more to do for the boy. Cost is not a huge issue. HELP! Thanks - I really value your suggestions.

washingtonpost.com: You Can Get There From Here, Nonstop (Post Travel Section, March 2)

Christina Talcott: If you live here, you could look into a house swap somewhere nice, since accommodations in the DC area for the inauguration are much sought-after. Try homeexchange.com to arrange a swap. That way, you can splurge on airfare and food wherever you go. Check out our list of non-stop Caribbean destinations - what about Puerto Rico or Cancun? Southern California might be nice, too, and there's lots to entertain a teenage boy in the San Diego/L.A. area. Anyone else have suggestions?

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Rockville, Md.: Hi - We are scheduled to drive to Buffalo for the holiday, leaving tomorrow morning. Normally, we take Routes 70 to 76 to 79 to 90, but the forecast looks pretty snowy with lake effect snow (although weather.com lists total accumulations as only 1-3 inches). We have an SUV with 4WD, but would we be better off taking a different route? The AAA Web site tells us to take 70 to 99 toward Johnstown/Altoona, and then hook up with 219 via Route 80. A better option? Would like to avoid Route 15. Our usual route takes us on more major interstates, so I'm not sure if the snow forecast is enough to make us travel on smaller roads (which also could be snowy or rainy).

Robert Thomson: You're smart to be checking the forecast. But if you're driving an SUV and you're talking about an Interstate route you know, as opposed to a route you don't know that involves secondary routes, I'd stick with the tried and true.

And a bad forecast would not drive me to secondary roads. That would keep me on the Interstates through Pennsylvania.

I drove across PA a couple of days ago. Snowed lightly most of the time. There were treatment trucks and plows out everywhere. It inspired confidence.

Here's a link that may be useful to other travelers concerned about the weather. This is The Weather Channel's page for Interstate forecasts:

http://www.weather.com/activities/driving/interstate/

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Arlington, VA: Hi Dr Gridlock! Thanks for taking my question. I'm traveling from DC down I-85 to Carolina for Thanksgiving. My company has offices in Richmond, so I have the option of working in Richmond on Tuesday, and then leaving for home from there. My other option is to leave DC for Carolina on Wednesday morning. So in your experience, when does traffic out of DC start getting really bad? Will I be safe leaving Wed. morning, or should I try to escape the DC area as soon as possible? Thanks!

Robert Thomson: If you have the option, I'd do the Tuesday thing in Richmond, rather than wait for Wednesday morning in Washington.

The Virginia Department of Transportation says the heaviest traffic in the commonwealth is likely to be from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday. But at anytime on Wednesday on the Interstates, you can count on sharing the highway with people driving south from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and New York and Richmond.

By the way, these are the places that VDOT sees as the holiday chokepoints on the Interstates:

-- Interstate 95 between Richmond and I-495/I-395 Springfield Interchange

-- I-66 eastbound and westbound in Northern Virginia

-- I-81/I-77 interchange near Wytheville

-- I-81 near Lexington to south of Roanoke

-- I-64/I-95 in the Richmond area

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Boston: Loved the article on Vienna. My parents met working there as part of the post-war occupation, and I have visited many times.

A suggestion for visitors looking for strudel and other pastry... the local chain Aida. It is in various locations around Vienna, and the coffee and pastry are truly authentic Viennese. In addition to strudel (of several varieties) I recommend the Linzertorte (hazelnut pastry with a raspberry jam filling), and creme schnitte (like a napoleon, but with whipped cream instead of creme patisserie).

Demels, mentioned in the article, is lovely but serves mostly tourists these days. Aida is highly patronized by locals and puts Starbucks and other US coffee chains to shame. Don't miss it.

washingtonpost.com: In the Presence of the Past (Post Travel Section, Nov. 23)

Scott Vogel: Thanks, Boston, always happy to hear about another strudel place. I do recall seeing Aida outlets, but never actually set foot in one -- sadly!

Speaking of post-war Vienna, I can't believe I somehow missed seeing "The Third Man" in the past. Absolutely terrific old Carol Reed film (shot on location in Vienna just after WWII), one made all the more excellent by the Graham Greene screenplay of his book.

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Potomac, MD: I have an 8:30 am flight out of National on Wednesday morning. I plan on arriving at the airport about 7 am to avoid Beltway traffic. Will I have difficulty finding parking at National then? In past years, the lots were completely full by Wednesday afternoon, but I don't know about early morning.

Robert Thomson: Yes, I think you would have difficulty. I'm not saying it would be impossible to find a space out of the more than 7,000 in the garages and lots, but Reagan National is normally pretty tight for parking at mid-week, then you throw in the extra travelers for the holiday, then you subtract the 349 spaces eliminated during the garage expansion project.

If you were leaving right now, you'd be in great shape. The garages have more than 2,000 spaces available and there are 1,500 left in the economy lot. I know that by checking the airport Web page that gives the current parking information:

http://www.metwashairports.com/reagan/parking_transportation_4/parking_2

You can also call for updates on the situation: 703-417-PARK (417-7275).

(By the way, the valet parking lot is now closed.)

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Arlington, VA: Dear Dr. G,

I've heard a lot about traffic leaving the city, but what are you expecting for traffic coming into the city? My wife's parents are coming down to Arlington from Pittsburgh this Wednesday. They plan on taking I-68 East instead of the Pennsylvania Turnpike through Breezewood, but from there, I couldn't give them a forecast as to what they should expect. How does the immigration compare to the emigration?

Robert Thomson: Hi, Arlington, I gather what they'll be doing is taking I-79 south to Morgantown, WVA, where they'll head east on I-68 to I-70 to I-270? Not a bad idea. It's more miles than taking the Penn Turnpike east to the Breezewood junction and following I-70. Breezewood is a notorious holiday chokepoint. It's not an interchange. It's an excuse for gas stations, restaurants and hotels that just slows down drivers heading to and from Washington.

Their route from Pittsburgh would take me about five hours to drive. Can they start before rush time in Pittsburgh and get to your place by noon? They may encounter some congestion around the I-70/270 junction in Frederick, but their real potential for heavy traffic would be on I-270 nearing the Beltway and then on the Beltway.

The deeper they get into Wednesday afternoon in the Washington area, the worse it will be -- even in their direction. Plenty of local and long distance traffic will be heading south on I-270 and then along the western side of the Beltway. They'll be sharing lanes with commuters going home or trying to reach I-95.

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Arlington, Va. (heading to Charlotte, N.C.): Heading down to Charlotte and due to work and other constraints will need to leave Wednesday. Any thoughts on the best time of day to leave (assuming I head down I-395/95)? Or to put it another way -- about when will the road become a parking lot?

Robert Thomson: The Virginia Department of Transportation says that noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesday are likely to be the hours of heaviest traffic on the Interstates.

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Washington, D.C.: Submitting early... I am headed from DCA to Detroit on a 9:30 a.m. flight Wednesday. Do you think 2 hours will be enough to clear security? I'm a solo traveler, experienced w/TSA regs, so shouldn't have any trouble there.

Andrea Sachs: TSA plans to have all hands on deck and all security lines will be open, so I think two hours is ample time. Just check before you got that your flight is on time. No need to spend more time than necessary at the airport.

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Thanksgiving in D.C.: Hi Crew! I'm a lucky one who doesn't have to travel for Thanksgiving. Since I'm in town and need to kill time before the big dinner, I was thinking of going to one of the Smithsonians (preferably the re-opened American History) in the morning. How crowded do you think the museums will be on Thanksgiving? I'm thinking they will be worse the Friday after, but do you think they will be bad on Tday itself? (I have a strong aversion to crowds.)

Scott Vogel: According to our friends in the Weekend section, who spoke to a museum representative, Thanksgiving Day is expected to be one of the LESS crowded days, believe it or not (as will the days leading up to Christmas). So you might get lucky!

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Washington, DC: Dear Flight Crew & Dr. Gridlock,

I'm curious as to why the local cab companies are still charging the fuel surcharge now that gas prices have come down to "normal" levels. According to the notice in the last cab I took, the surcharge is in effect until Jan 31, 2009. Seems like a bit much since prices have been down for several weeks now. Thoughts?

Thanks and happy holidays!

Andrea Sachs: I completely agree, especially now that gas is as cheap as a carton of organic eggs. However, same deal for some airlines: They are keeping the fuel surcharge despite the drop in oil. I think to boycott this, we need to walk! or take Metro! or ride a camel!

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Washington, DC: Dear Flight Crew,

My 20 year old nephew is finishing a semester abroad by traveling around a little before coming home.

My husband thought it would be nice to get him a hotel room for one of the places he was going to give him a break from youth hostels.

In Paris we have often stayed in the Hotel Verneuil (although last time we stayed for a week and our backs we just about broken from the bed and I began to be claustrophobic!) and I thought about putting him there, but we obviously have different interests than a 20 year-old (we are 38 and our going out 'til 3 AM are behind us!).

Do you think this is a good location for him to stay so that he can see the sights during the day, but still go out at night?

Any suggestions for hotels that might be more interesting for a younger person?

Thanks in advance!

Christina Talcott: How thoughtful of you! I'm sure wherever you send him will be a welcome break from hostels, but that location looks terrific if your nephew wants to stay out all night. (Some of my favorite haunts as a student were in St. Germain-des-Pres.) And as you know, it's just a short walk from many major sites in the city. He's a lucky guy!

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Central Cal: For Arlington: If you can adjust your schedule a bit and since you're talking about airfare, why not try a cruise? The Bahamas from Miami or I understand Charleston has more cruises now. And when you price it, remember most of your food will be included. And lots to do for a boy on a boat.

Christina Talcott: Great suggestion, thanks!

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Delaware: hello travel crew! I love reading your chats each week and hearing stories from abroad. I am going to Punta Cana this Friday for 5 days. I'm so excited! I know I've read the airport rules for liquids in past chats but can you put up a link to the regulations? I need to know about shampoo, hairspray, lotions, etc. Thanks for this and everything you guys (and girls) do!

washingtonpost.com: 3-1-1 on Air Travel (TSA.gov)

Christina Talcott: There you go. Have a great time!

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Montgomery, Alabama: I am planning a trip to Hawaii next summer. All the major airlines, except Continental, quote similar flight prices from Atlanta. Continental has been quoting a price about $200. higher and just last week raised it an additional $100 plus. I know prices have risen since Aloha and another airline went under but I I don't understand why Continental is so out-of-line. My problem is that I must use a flight coupon from Continental on a canceled flight. Can you clarify and most of all, do you think Continental will soon fall in line with the other lines? Thanks

Carol Sottili: I don't think Continental's pricing differences have anything to do with the bankruptcies of other airlines. Probably more about its supply/demand on that route. Continental's fares are in line with prices out of Houston, which is where its hub is located, which probably has something to do with it. You have time to keep tracking the prices, which is what I'd do for the next month or so. But they may never be as cheap as Delta's prices out of Altanta.

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Breaking Travel News!: USA Today headline: "Holiday flights expected to be jammed." Really? How unusual, holiday travel is usually so easy... ha ha.

Scott Vogel: Wow, what's next? Crowds in Times Square on New Year's?

I think the one bit of news here is that the flights will be jammed this year AND air travel will be down, a phenomenon that can be attributed to drastic cuts by the airlines in the number of flights. It sounds like the airline terminals will be a little quieter, he said, trying to find a silver lining.

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Silver Spring, MD: Hello, I'm flying out tomorrow evening (7:30 flight). I plan on taking the Metro to Reagan, and I'm not checking luggage, just one carry-on. Should I give myself extra time for security? I usually get to the airport by 5 or 5:30, should I plan on arriving earlier?

Andrea Sachs: Check-in online and you should be fine. I believe the worst of airport traffic is Wednesday and early Thursday, and of course Sunday.

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Ellicott City, MD: Hello. When fuel prices rose rapidly last summer so did airfares. Fuel prices have really dropped - any opinion on when or of this will happen for the airline industry? Any hope for lower Christmas travel prices? Thanks very much. Happy Thanksgiving.

Christina Talcott: You're right about prices dropping, and you're in luck: There are oodles of Christmastime sales going on right now. Check out FareCompare.com's blog for the latest info on sales; we also had a round-up of ending-soon sales in CoGo this week, Deals has great sale info and we'll keep you updated on our blog, too.

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Fairfax: Looking for advice on a Christmas travel gift before Black Friday. I thought of a GPS device for my elderly mother. Any suggestions about brand and type? She's not very technologically gifted, and is a bit hard of hearing. Any suggestions?

Christina Talcott: I'm throwing this out there. Anyone have a GPS you'd recommend for a hard-of-hearing mom?

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Arlington, VA: Is there any time I can travel up the I-95 corridor (to NYC) on Wednesday that won't be insane?

Nancy McKeon: From what Dr. Gridlock is saying, I'm guessing that getting on the road by 7 a.m. heading north is the answer. My own answer, which I suspect you're not going to like, is to leave at 3 or 4 a.m. Wednesday, hitting NYC/Northern NJ at around 8. I may have to do that this year; what I did in the past, when my travel north was more frequent, was to leave at around 11 p.m. the night before and let myself in quietly at around 4 a.m. (then nap time!). But that's just me--I swear I'm allergic to traffic (and I don't have little kids to corral).

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Silver Spring: Hi Dr. Gridlock!

I'm planning to leave on Wednesday to drive to central PA. What do you think the best time to leave is so I can avoid as much traffic as possible? I was hoping to sleep in a little, but if I do that, will it make for a miserable, long trip? (I'm planning to take I-95N to I-83.) Thanks, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Robert Thomson: Hi, Silver Spring. I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving, too, and wish you could get to bed early Tuesday to avoid sleeping in in Wednesday. I think you'd be real glad about that early depature.

I know I'm kind of stuck on that theme. Readers tend to ask me about routes and timing. I find the timing of the departure can be a lot more important than the route -- and many travelers tell me the same thing.

That's especially true on routes that involve the East Coast corridor, where you basically drive from one urban center right into another. It's hard to time things so you avoid everybody's rush hour. Plus, any route along I-95 is likely to be heavy for most of the day and evening on Wednesday.

For example, for the I-95/I-83 trip, I'd be up before dawn so I could get around the Baltimore Beltway before rush hour and on my way up I-83 toward Harrisburg, PA.

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Tulsa, OK: I second the Vienna compliment. Loved the depth of the story as well as the personal touch. Am heading to Vienna in early December with a friend--any advice for enjoying pre- Christmas festivities?

Scott Vogel: I really envy you, Tulsa. My one regret was that I didn't get to visit during the holiday season. Don't miss, in no particular order: the giant Advent wreath and highly decorated City Hall area, the Christmas markets at Schonbrunn palace, Spittelberg, Belvedere Palace, the Alt-Wiener Christkindlmarkt, etc. Details on all these can be found at the city's official Web site, www.vienna.info. I think you'll have wonderful time.

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Third Man, MD: This famous speech in The Third Man was ad-libbed by Orson Welles: "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. They produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy, and peace. And what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."

Scott Vogel: And -- no offense, Mr. Greene -- it's the most memorable one in the whole film.

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DC: Every year there is mass hysteria about driving anywhere for Thanksgiving. Each year for the last 16 years we have driven from DC to Philadelphia for the holiday. We leave Wednesday evening at 7:00 or 7:30. Traffic is heavier than it usually is at that time on a normal day, but it keeps moving. We leave Philadelphia by 9:00 on Sunday morning. By the time we get to Baltimore, traffic is heavier than usual, but never stop and go.

Leave after 7:30 on Wednesday and stay calm. No need to leave at midnight and drive through the night and no need to leave today!

Robert Thomson: DC, I'm glad you've had good experiences, and I like what you're saying about the departure times.

But as you know, with the high volumes of traffic we see around the holidays, it doesn't take much going wrong up ahead on the highway to set off brake lights for dozens of miles. Not very festive.

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parking in BWI on Thursday AM? : I have a 10:00 flight on Thursday out of BWI, what is the likelihood of parking problems with the daily lot? If we get there @ 8:30, will that be enough time? We will not be checking bags and will already have boarding passes. Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: How funny: I have a flight around there and was trying to figure out what to do (wish the MARC train was running). BWI does not have parking woes like National, so you should not have a problem finding a spot. However, it might be out in Siberia. Additionally, if you plan to park off-site at a private lot, be sure to make a reservation, as many lots sell out (if they are not already filled up).

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Washington D.C.: The first commenter suggested getting a rail pass for Italy to avoid the long lines and possible language barriers. When I traveled in Italy, my rail pass required a hand stamp from someone in the station. Several times, the lines were so long that I ended up buying a ticket from a machine - and thus paying extra - in order to make the train. That was about 5 years ago, so rules may have changed, but double check the rules before buying a pass.

Scott Vogel: I don't have any first-hand knowledge on Italian trains, but this is something you might want to keep in mind.

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Lorton, Va.: A comment on the inauguration: I have friends from around the country who are so excited and want to come in for the week. I've offered my house, as long as they dog sit. After 10 years living here, I know when to get OUT of town. We made our plans to leave for the week back in October. But I've found that, since so many people are coming IN to town, flying out of town is dirt cheap. Even at now (less than 60-days out), Southwest still had flights out of BWI for under $100/one way.

Carol Sottili: Southwest is having a sale right now, which is the reason for the low fares. Flights are $49-$109 (plus taxes) each way out of BWI to all their destinations for travel Dec. 12-Feb. 28. Go www.southwest.com for details.

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One reason Continental to Hawaii: is higher is because Continental is the only carrier to fly to places like Guam, the Marshall islands, and the islands in between. So people flying to those places are booking through Continental or their codeshares.

Carol Sottili: Another cause for the higher prices.

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Alexandria, VA: I've made the Arlington to Pittsburgh round trip many many times, and I've concluded that barring any accidents, the turnpike is definitely a bit faster, while the I-68 method is a little longer but more scenic with less traffic and semi trucks. One way you can "try" to make Breezewood a little easier is to get off at the Bedford exit (146) and then take Route 30 into Breezewood - that way you're making a right onto 70 instead of having to make a left. Coming into D.C. the worst traffic usually starts as you approach 270, though most times it moves pretty well down to the beltway because most traffic in the afternoon is going the other way. Depending on what time you get in, you may want to dodge 66 by taking the GW Parkway south off the beltway and exit in Rosslyn.

Robert Thomson: Thanks for that advice, which should benefit our Arlington reader whose question we published above. And thanks especially for the suggestion on how to deal with Breezewood, PA.

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New Englander in DC: I'm flying out of BWI on Wednesday afternoon...do you think my chances are pretty good for getting a parking space? Please let me know if my fear of all the lots being full is unfounded. Many thanks!

Andrea Sachs: BWI has thousands of spots, so you will find one. Just leave time for the search.

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For Rockville, MD: As someone who grew up in Buffalo, and frequently drove back there from college in PA, do not take 219 if you are anticipating bad weather. It is often a single lane road that winds through some mountainous areas with a good deal of truck traffic. Coming from DC, I've always stuck to the 70-76-79-90 route.

Robert Thomson: Thanks, I think I'm getting some backup here on what I said to the earlier question from our Rockville to Buffalo traveler.

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Tenleytown, DC: Oh wise travel gurus: after my plans for a quiet Thanksgiving here in DC fell through, I'll be joining the masses trying to get on a flight Wednesday afternoon. Ick.

My question is: just how bad is parking going to be at Dulles??? Any tips for keeping my sanity?

Andrea Sachs: It will be tight but Dulles has loads of lots and spots. Just leave time for the shuttle and to look for a spot.

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I-95: Hi guys,

My girlfriend and I are taking that dreaded annual trip from DC up to the New York area on Wednesday. We both have to work full days on Wednesday, last year we left Wed. night around 9 pm and actually didn't do too bad. Was that just a fluke you think? I definitely don't want to leave right at rush hour, but would prefer to avoid 5 am Thursday morning too. Any suggestions? thanks!

Sincerely, Survivor of an 11 hour trip from hell to Jersey on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving circa 2002.

Robert Thomson: I-95, I think you're on the right track if you duplicate last year's plan. It tends to work, although as I said above, it doesn't take much going wrong on crowded I-95 to create an enormous backup.

Travelers who follow your route tend to complain the most about getting across Delaware. A lot of trouble for such a small state. There's usually a long holiday backup at the toll plaza. They need some E-ZPass highway-speed lanes there.

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Gallery Place: My wife and I are heading to Montreal for a quick Thanksgiving getaway (Thursday to Sunday). Of course, snow is in the forecast for each day.

Any indoors recommendations?

Thanks.

Scott Vogel: Don't let the snow deter ya! If things get outta control snow-wise, however, don't miss the underground city -- 20 miles of passageways that contain everything from access to art galleries to shopping centers to grocery stores to movie theaters.

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anonymous: My husband has been offered a job in Milan for 1 yr followed by 3-4 yrs in London. I know a lot of people would jump at this chance, but I have never been an adventurous traveler. I have seen a lot of the world, but cautiously. What advice would you give this 50 yr old for maximizing an opportunity like this? What are the "not to miss" sights in Milan? I've got London covered, no problem there. Thanks!

Nancy McKeon: Milan is a serious city. The biggest thing you must do there is learn to be elegant. (Unless things have changed in the past couple of years, you're going to feel dowdy in a cloth coat unless it's trendy!) Exclusive fashion shops on the Via della Spiga don't charge anything for window shopping, thank goodness, cuz the dollar's doing better against the euro but not THAT well. There's the Duomo cathedral, La Scala opera house (experience opera as a sport with spectator participation!), and behind monstrous walls and doorways there's often a peek at lush, private palazzo gardens. The Brera (Pinacoteca di Brera) is there for art, and the district surrounding it has innovative shops, not high fashion. Leonardo's Last Supper is in the Refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie and was under restoration for years, but now you can get a timed reservation to view it. I envy you your year there.

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Last Minute T-Giving travel: Crew, Hope you can help. We were hoping to take advantage of having Friday off and do a getaway to the Caribbean. We are flexible on the location, the only condition being a nonstop flight due to the short trip. I haven't had much luck finding anything, can you assist? Or, what are some other options for us?

Thank you!

Andrea Sachs: Wow, that is really last-minute. Look for packages to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Cancun or the Dominican Republic, which are non-stop. Another idea: Fly to Miami and catch a short cruise to the Caribbean. Besides last-minute travel sites, look for deals at CheapCaribbean.com and faredeal.com.

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Washington, DC: Heading to Central Jersey on Thursday morning. Is Thanksgiving Day traffic bad enough that we should leave early in the morning, or will most people be eating by lunchtime that the roads will be mostly clear?

Robert Thomson: Central New Jersey? I think you're fine. Most people are where they're going -- if not already eating -- and the malls are closed.

The only time on Thanksgiving that I don't like to drive is at night. I think people tend to be over-served, beverage-wise, on Thanksgiving.

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Washington DC: I'm looking to travel w/my daughter age 12 somewhere nice and close to home for 3-4 days. Our interests are warm weather, sun, sand, no car necessary and not expensive.

Carol Sottili: I'm guessing that you mean a nonstop flight away. Look into Playa del Carmen in Mexico. There are plenty of well-priced all inclusives there, and several airlines (JetBlue, USA 3000, United, Delta) offer nonstop service to Cancun. It's an easy drive via taxi or shuttle bus to Playa del Carmen. If you want to drive, it takes about 12 hours to get to Orlando - no sand, but your 12-year-old may go for the theme park stuff, plus you could take a side trip to the beach.

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VA: I lived in Vienna in the 1980s when my dad was with the UN. I love it. Also visit the Holocaust museum (very few Austrians visit there). And eat dinner in Grinzing. The Ferris Wheel is great. (and don't dress like an American)

Scott Vogel: Thanks for the tips. As for that last one: Always good advice, although I draw the line at lederhosen.

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Logan Circle: I'm spending my first Christmas away from family this year, and my partner and I are determined to go somewhere fabulous and (preferably) warm for the extended holiday weekend. Any suggestions for a fun five-day getaway, either here or abroad? (Cheap-ish airfare would be a bonus, but not required.)

Andrea Sachs: I would suggest Morocco, only six hours by plane from New York. It is fab and warm. Or try some of the less-visited Caribbean islands, such as Grenada or Mustique. Other options: Honduras or Colombia. Cartagena is very fab these days.

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Southwest and the inauguration: They might be having a fare sale, that is true. However, price a round trip flight coming in to WAS on Jan 18th and leaving on Jan 23rd, then reverse the trip (say BWI to FLL). So while it may be a fare sale, the fact remains you can get tickets OUT of town a heck of a lot cheaper than flights IN to town.

Carol Sottili: That makes sense: Even though more of our chatters say they'd rather leave than stay, there are plenty of people who want to be in Washington for inauguration.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm considering a vacation at an upscale all-inclusive resort in Riviera Maya. Does anyone out there have any opinions on Excellence, Secrets, or Royal Hideaway in that area?

Andrea Sachs: We have never visited any of those resorts.

Chatsters: Can you offer Wash-DC any advice?

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Los Angeles, CA: Sorry this is long, submitting early hoping to make it easier: I'm going to Paris mid-December for a few days to see the City of Lights lit up for the holidays and unwind a bit after a very difficult year. Staying a stone's throw from the L'Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees. Other than the usual celebrated tourist attractions, do you or any of the chatters have any must-see/must-do/must-eat-or-drink-at personal recommendations specifically for the central tourist zone up and down the Avenue and the Seine? Caveats: short trip; no car; husband staying home so no need for "romantic" suggestions; and money issues at medium--am flying on miles and staying for free, therefore willing and able to spend but nothing too over the top (or husband at home will be even more aggrieved he's not accompanying me! and I'm not packing formal-wear). Just want an easy-going and very pleasant experience (walking down the Left Bank with a cup of hot chocolate is as anticipated as a trip to the Musee Grimaud). Oh, and my French is limited--better than a phrase or two but unused for far too long to feel any confidence even that much will come back.

On a purely practical note, I am meeting a friend at Charles de Gaulle airport who is arriving two hours after I am. Not knowing the layout, are there cafes or bistros I can caffeinate and wait in after immigration and luggage collection before meeting her exiting same? Or are there places after immigration and luggage but prior to exiting the secure area? Prefer the latter--no cell phones, so I hope someone can help. Thanks and happy holidays to all!

Christina Talcott: Wow, it sounds like this is just the vacation you need, and you're already in the perfect mindset! Check out the two-year-old Quai Branly Museum, then pop across the Seine for a drink at a cafe where you can see the lights twinking on the Eiffel Tower. On the other side of town, you could try Brasserie Bofinger for a good meal in an opulent setting near the Bastille. Anyone else have suggestions?

As for the airport meet-up, I'd suggest heading to the bottom floor of the terminal (I'm assuming you're arriving at Terminal 1), where there are some fast-food restaurants. My choice for a coffee, snack and waiting would be Brioche Doree. You could even buy your tickets for the RER train into town before your friend gets there, then go relax at the cafe, where it shouldn't be hard for your friend to find you. Have a fabulous time!

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Italy Rail Pass: It may not save you that much time because even with a rail pass you need to make a reservation for certain trains.

Scott Vogel: More rail pass ideas. Thanks.

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Atlanta: With all this talk of traffic, etc, I'm glad I'm staying put and friends are coming to ME!

Scott Vogel: I'm with you, Atlanta!

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Thai visa: I am taking an extended trip to Thailand next month. Most tourists, including Americans, can visit Thailand for up to 30 days without a visa, but need a tourist class visa if the stay will be between 30-60 days, I believe. I am staying 34 days and toyed with either making a visa run into a neighboring country, which would re-start my 30 day limit in Thailand, or simply paying the overstay penalty as I depart the airport in Bangkok. From what I have been hearing, Thai authorities have been cracking down on overstays, and if the police check your passport and find you have overstayed, it means jail and deportation. In the end, to be safe, I decided to pay the $35.00 fee for a tourist visa, I don't need to experience my own version of the movie "Brokedown Palace."

Andrea Sachs: Very wise. As I recall, Claire Danes is still sweating it out in jail.

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For Arlington: A second the cruise recommendation. I recently priced out 4 days in the Bahamas (flights + hotel), and found a 5 day cruise was cheaper (flights + cruise, including food and tips)

Scott Vogel: It might be the best option for sun-seekers on a budget this winter season.

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Re: Paris hotels: I just got back from Paris, and we stayed on the Rue Cler at the Le Grand Hotel Leveque; see a Rick Steves book - there are other basic hotels within a few blocks. The beds were fine, room not huge, but very clean and everything you could need or want was on the Rue Cler, plus it was about a 10 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower and the river. About 95 Euro a night. Don't have any suggestions for the 5th or 6th, but there are plenty of trendy places in the 7th. Tribeca on Rue Cler seemed to be a hot spot, but really, anyplace in Paris would work for me, and I would think for him as well. It's Paris!

Christina Talcott: Great suggestions. Thanks!

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Fairfax, VA: My husband and I are planning to visit New Orleans in March. Right now airfare looks to be $290 with connections, $380 nonstop. He says wait, the price will go down, but those looked like decent fares to me. Should I hold off?

Carol Sottili: I'd wait and track it for a bit before buying. You still have plenty of time, and that nonstop price might drop. Most sites offer fare notifications: try www.farecast.com, www.farecompare.com, www.kayak.com and www.priceline.com.

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SFO: Help! Stand-by black hole

I was supposed to be on a 8:30am flight tommorrow for pre-Thanksgiving/Thanksgiving. I need to get in earlier and the earliest flight on my carrier is tomorrow at 12:25 am. Same day, so I qualify for stand-by, but I just called and they said that I can't get on a standby list till midnight - what?

Am I setting myself up for red-tape disaster when I show up to the airport tonight?

Andrea Sachs: That is usual. Stand-by is no guarantee and is a last-minute shot. See if the airline will tell over the phone if there are seats available on that flight or if they overbooked it. If it's overbooked, you might be wasting your time and are better off just keeping the original flight.

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NW cubicle: What is a good price for a flight from DC to Buenos Aires? Is $611 a good price for a flight with 1 lay over?

Thanks

Christina Talcott: Holy cow, is that round-trip? If so, that's an incredible price! Just make sure the layover is reasonable - leave yourself plenty of time to make your connection, make sure you're flying in and out of the same airport (not, say, arriving at JFK and flying out of LaGuardia), and think hard if your layover's an overnight and you have to pay for a hotel. In other words, read the fine print, and if it all checks out, buy those tickets!

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Philadelphia, PA: Hello Flight Crew! My family and I are planning a two week trip to Alaska next August (Kenai Peninsula, Denali National Park, and Fairbanks). Alaska Air has a roundtrip flight for $535 from Philadelphia to Anchorage (one stop in Chicago). That seems like a good price; any reason to wait any longer to purchase tickets? Thanks for your input.

Carol Sottili: That price, if it includes all the taxes, is good.

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Pittsburgh: For the folks heading to Montreal: See if the Montreal Symphony is playing during your stay, because you might be able to score cheap last-minute same-day tickets at their box office. The symphony's performance home is at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier, at the Place Des Arts Metro (subway) stop. And if the symphony's not playing while you're there, then maybe something else IS!

P.S. I ADORE the luxurious chocolate desserts at La Tulipe Noire! Check the phonebook in your hotel room after you arrive, although I recall the location was in the center of downtown.

Scott Vogel: Great ideas, Pittsburgh. They won't have to ever go outside!

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Wash, DC: Regarding Italian trains, make sure you get a seat ticket AND a reservation.

Scott Vogel: Thanks.

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For Los Angeles headed to Paris: Two lovely museums in Paris are the Rodin museum, and the Marmottan, which has an extensive Monet collection. Also, the City of Paris Modern Art Museum has an extensive Raul Dufy exhibit on through mid-January that is wonderful.

Christina Talcott: Great tips, thanks!

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College Park, MD: Can anyone recommend a good travel agent in the Greenbelt or College Park area? I'm comfortable making my own flight and hotel reservations for domestic travel, but I'd like to find an agent who could help with travel, hotel, and tour arrangements in Europe and Australia.

Christina Talcott: I'm going to throw this one out there. Anyone have suggestions?

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Arlington, VA: A get-out-of-town during inauguration question: am looking at flights to visit some friends on the West Coast, and am finding pretty good deals, however, most connect in Chicago, Detroit, and other places where weather in January makes me nervous. I know there is little recourse for travelers when flights are cancelled due to weather, any suggestions on travel insurance? I don't want to miss these fares, but I am worries about spending the weekend in O'Hare as well.

Carol Sottili: I don't think insurance is going to solve this problem. If the weather is bad, and flights are going out nearly full, you may get stuck. And even if you could find an insurance that would pay for your hotel room, that's not going to get you to the West Coast. I'd probably pay a bucks more to connect somewhere warmer, although there are no guarantees that weather won't be a factor in Atlanta or Dallas or anywhere else. Nonstop is my mantra.

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Dupont Circle: Hi Dr. Gridlock,

I'm driving from Dupont Circle to Dulles airport on Wednesday for an 8 pm flight. What time do you think I should head out? 5:30?

Thanks!

Robert Thomson: DC, out of all the questions I get asked as Dr. Gridlock, these are the ones that really scare me: I've got a flight at such and such a time. When should I leave?

I am very conservative in answering them generally, but trying to predict where you'll encounter traffic bottlenecks leaving the city for Dulles on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is especially tricky. Also, you're likely to encounter a lot of inexperienced air travelers navigating the parking areas at Dulles.

I always plan on being in the terminal two hours before flight time. So if it's me, trying to catch a Thanksgiving eve flight I know I can't afford to miss, I'm leaving at 4 p.m. (So I might get some extra reading time at the terminal. That's better than the anxiety.)

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Washington, DC: Going to Nicaragua at the end of January. Should I be concerned? I will not be going to Leon and only in Managua to fly in and out of.

Andrea Sachs: A State Department Travel Alert to Nicaragua ends on Dec. 12 (promising!), but the agency does say:

We remind U.S. citizens that even events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. We urge American citizens to avoid the affected areas if possible, and to exercise caution when in the vicinity of any large gathering.

I would not be concerned, just exercise caution. As the trip nears, pay attention to the news and decide accordingly.

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Arlington, VA: We are taking a family vacation to Ireland in April. I realize things may change between then and now but, with the economic crisis should I expect the exchange rate between dollar and euro to get better or worse? Will the overall economy mean better deals on lodging etc (wondering if I should book at today's rates or wait, hoping for better deals).

Christina Talcott: Boy, it's so hard to tell where things are going with the economic situation. I'd keep tabs on the situation in Ireland and monitor the dollar's price against the Euro, and if you find a good deal on lodging, snap it up. Anyone have thoughts about how to plan for European/Ireland travel in this current economy?

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Maryland: I always buy tickets on Expedia but my friend said his are cheaper straight from the airlines' email alerts, but they are always like 2 days before the flight. Which is actually cheaper?

Carol Sottili: I wouldn't depend on finding a deal two days before a flight. I sometimes find cheaper fares on Expedia or Orbitz or Travelocity, but many airlines are now offering deals exclusive to their Web sites. Check it both ways.

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Lexington Park, MD: Greetings from Southern Maryland! My husband and I will be driving to a town near Leesburg, VA for Thanksgiving. We were planning on leaving early Thursday morning, and returning early Saturday.

Would you advise taking the Nice bridge on the 301 into VA, the Wilson bridge into VA on the 495, or another route to accomplish this task successfully?-

-Successfully entails minimal frustration and honking, please!

Robert Thomson: With those sensible dates and times, no need to try anything fancy. I'd do the Beltway and take the Wilson Bridge.

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Vienna, Austria: Scott Vogel's piece on Vienna was fabulous! I sent the link to it to family members and friends of mine. My Viennese husband was very impressed and laughed ut loud at several passages. Well done! (I think you found the only friendly waiters in town, though -- the Viennese service industry is known for their grumpiness.)

For Tulsa headed to Vienna in early December. Skip the kitschy, touristy Christmas market at the Rathaus. Go to the ones in the Spittelberg neighborhood (7th district) -- that's my favorite Christmas market. I also like the small one on Karlsplatz, the one at Altes AHK is nice (fun area, part of the uni) and go out to the one in front of Schoenbrunn Palace.

Scott Vogel: Wow, thanks so much. I have to say: Maybe it was because my mother and I were so obviously clueless, but EVERYONE was unfailingly polite and kind to us in Vienna.

Thanks too for the insider info on the Christmas markets. As I say, I'm no expert there, but it sounds like there are many great places worth checking out.

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Another Alcohol Packing Tip: In the holiday tips FAQ suggestion on ways to carry bottles of what might primly be called "hootch", it was suggested, "Companies also sell padded carriers that keep bottles secure, such as BottleWise (http://www.bottlewise.com)."

Southwest Airlines also sells very fine liquor and wine packaging for $5 a unit. And you don't need to be flying Southwest to get to the terminal a bit early (or the day before) and purchase however many you might need from that airline's counter before packing the, um, "hootch" inside the bag being checked aboard another airline.

http://www.southwest.com/travel_center/alcohol.html

Christina Talcott: Wow, great tip! Thanks!

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Atlanta, GA: I require a gluten free meal. I've flown overseas before and can get a GF meal, but it's pretty wretched. What am I allowed to take on board? Can I bring food through security if I have a doctor's note?

Andrea Sachs: You can bring anything that does not jiggle, wiggle or splash, such as pudding, chutney and power drinks (unless it is in a container three ounces or smaller). That leaves you with gluten-free breads, cookies, cheese, meats, vegetables and fruits (just eat produce before you land), etc. TSA allows oversize liquids and gels for real medical issues, and I am not sure gluten-free qualifies, with so many options on the market that fit within the agency's parameters.

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Rail Passes: I was in Europe earlier this year and traveled a lot by train (I am an enthusiast), and based on the experiences I had as well as those of people I know who were also there at the time, there are many factors that determine whether one should buy a rail pass or not. Perhaps I need to write it out and post it to my (transit-related) website.

Short answer: Rail passes save you money on routes with frequent service where you may not be able to know long in advance when you might want to go, such as Paris-Brussels, Rome-Florence, and Geneva-Paris. Trains on those routes are every 2-3 hours at most, and while you may need to reserve (and pay a bit more) to ultimately get a seat, you have more flexibility for a longer period leading up to your departure with the risk of finding the train you want is sold out. If you are going to be using sleeper accomodations or other routes where there is only one or two trains per day on that route, you are better off buying point to point tickets. Examples of these routes would be Paris-Barcelona, Paris-Madrid, Paris-Rome, Venice-Geneva, Marseilles-Barcelona. All of those (IIRC) only have one trip per day, so unless your schedule is very flexible, you are going to want the ticket you actually need sooner than later, and a railpass is likely going to make the trip more expensive.

A combination of those sorts of trips complicates things. The best thing to do is to make two spreadsheets, one for costs with railpass, one for point-to-point tickets, and be sure to factor in all the various reservation and other fees that can be assessed with the railpass.

Final point: If you are in Europe for several months (i.e. studying abroad), buying point to point tickets once you are in Europe, even with the exchange rate, will almost always be cheaper.

Scott Vogel: Lots of great stuff here for European train travelers. It bears close reading. Thanks.

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Re: Playa: A good on-line forum with reviews and other info on the all-inclusive resorts south of Cancun is http://www.playa.info/index.html Good luck!

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the tip!

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Italian trains: I also traveled around Italy about 5 years ago using the Eurail pass and never had to have it hand-stamped.

But on days that we traveled by train and didn't use the pass, we found the lines in the stations to be so long that it was worth it to pay extra to buy our tickets once aboard the train ... saved us from the panic of missing a train on more than one occasion!

Scott Vogel: More first-hand info on train travel in Italy -- thanks!

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Arnold, MD: Are you aware of a site that allows you to search for cheap fares to a general destination over a range of dates? In other words, find me the lowest cost airfare from DC to anywhere in western Europe in April or May. I remember seeing a site that displays fares on a map but I can't recall the name. Thanks!

Christina Talcott: Lots of sites let you search for "flexible dates," including Orbitz, FareCompare, Expedia, etc.

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Cartagena?: Really? So is the drug violence over, or just overstated?

washingtonpost.com: In the New Cartagena, Night Life Trumps Strife (Post Travel Section, Dec. 9, 2007)

Andrea Sachs: From what I have read and heard, it's safe, as long as you stay in the tourist, well-populated areas.

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Baltimore, MD: Hope I get this in on time! My girlfriend and I are driving down to the Outer Banks. I can't leave until Wednesday afternoon. Would it make sense to leave then or early Thursday a.m.?

Robert Thomson: Very early Thursday. As I said above, the worst of the worst holiday driving in Virginia will be from noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

The getaway is always worse than the return, because so many people are in the same position you are: They can't leave before Wednesday afternoon. People have a lot more choices about when to return. There's nothing all year like the Thanksgiving Getaway.

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Atlanta: We're driving down to Fla. to cut down on the cost - and are cruising out of Port Canaveral. It's going to cost half of what it would have to visited any island resort. We are SO EXCITED!!!

Andrea Sachs: A great plan, especially with gas dropping like a stone in the ocean.

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Traveling with food in VA: Loved the food travel tips. Here's my story: Last Christmas, my mom pushed leftover ham on all of us. I froze mine overnight, wrapped that hefty chunk of ham in layers and layers of foil, and stuck it in a gallon-sized plastic container nestled among sweaters in my suitcase. The cold air at 15,000 feet kept it frozen, so when I arrived home in Virginia, I just stuck it in the freezer, being in a post-holiday hammed-out mood. A month or so later, when the urge for ham salad hit, I thawed it, and as I unwound the layers of foil I found a notice of baggage search from TSA, who apparently inspected my ham and carefully re-wrapped it. And every time I travel to the south, and bring back a few packs of peach cobbler mix or White Lily flour in my carry-on -- you guessed it: TSA notices in the grocery bag. I figure it must look like heroin on their x-ray. So, if you're carrying food, my advice is to anticipate an inspection, and wrap or package your food so it can easily be viewed.

washingtonpost.com: How You Can Stay Ahead of the Holiday Pack (Post Travel Section, Nov. 23)

Christina Talcott: So glad you liked the story! Pre-freezing sounds like a great solution for flying, and that's great advice about wrapping items so they can be easily inspected.

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Williamsburg, Virgina: We will be driving up to Bethesda on Thanksgiving Day, around noon. Will we likely see a lot of traffic then? Thanks.

Robert Thomson: You should be fine. No construction, no mall traffic, no commuters; and most holiday travelers will be at their destinations.

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Traveling Tuesday with Baby: We have a 10 am flight out of National on Tuesday and will be traveling for the first time with our 3.5 month old. I realize now that this means we have to get to the airport during rush hour! Should be parking be awful tomorrow? How much time to allow? I used to be such a savvy traveler, now the baby has thrown me all off. Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: For updates on parking, call (703) 417-PARK (417-7275).

Take heart: Tuesday should not be as bad as Wednesday.

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Monroe, New York: I've had very good luck with train travel in Italy by purchasing tickets at American Express offices in both Rome and Florence, I think without a service charge.

Andrea Sachs: Thanks for the tip!

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First time holiday traveler: Hi Flight Crew. This is my first year where I will be flying for Thanksgiving. I am leaving tomorrow from BWI at 2 pm so I'm hoping that I'll miss most of the crunch but wanted to check with you and the chatters who are seasoned in flying during the holidays. Should I plan on sleeping there tonight or will leaving late morning suffice?

Thanks!

Andrea Sachs: Leave around 11 and you should be fine.

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Washington, D.C.: For the person looking to fly to the west coast in January, look into Alaska Air's flights out of DCA. They offer nonstops to Los Angeles and Seattle, and from either of those you should have lots of connection options.

Alaska even still gives you a free checked bag!

Andrea Sachs: Great!

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about Milan: They have some excellent high design shops specializing in kitchen and similar things, much less expensive than the clothing shrines.

And DRESS UP. All the Milanese do.

Andrea Sachs: Nice advice. Thanks.

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Baggage transfer question: I have a trip to Europe at the end of January.

On the way back, the only flight I could get home to JFK was with a connection through Logan.

The connecting airline (JetBlue) in Logan does not have a baggage transfer agreement with my originating airline... so yes, I am traveling on 2 tickets. I know it's not the best idea but it's the only option. I have a little over 2-hr layover in Logan so I SHOULD be OK.

My question is, what can I do to make sure my transfer onto JetBlue goes smoothly? Should I try to find a computer to check in online? I know I have to go through Customs then recheck my luggage, how feasible is this in Logan? I was planning on calling JetBlue to see what they suggest as I am sure they might run into this often.

Christina Talcott: Chances are you're flying into Terminal E and out of C, which I just did last week. It was a tad annoying because you have to walk down these winding hallways to get between the two terminals, but it really is easy, and two hours should be plenty of time. If you're flying into a terminal other than E, I'd peruse Massport.com to figure out how best to manage the trip. And if you can check in for your JetBlue flight online before you leave Europe, that'll ease your mind, but I've never seen crowds at the JetBlue kiosks/check-in desks at Logan.

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Philadelphia: "Anyone have thoughts about how to plan for European/Ireland travel in this current economy?"

Honestly, if you see a price that makes you comfortable, go for it - with the way the markets are at the moment, I wouldn't attempt trying to play the exchange rate game. You're 99% likely to get both a better and worse price on the day you by - better than some days, worse than others. So just take what you think is justified - and then don't go back and check, unless you're buying from someone who will refund the difference (and if you ask to have it refunded, be prepared to be asked to pay the difference, if it changes...)

Christina Talcott: Thanks!

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Columbia, MD: How about traveling on Thanksgiving itself? I'm going to a friend's in the Philly suburbs, and need to be there by noon at the latest on Thanksgiving day. Under normal conditions it's a 2 hour trip, mostly on I-95. Do you guys have any advice on what time I should leave? Thanks, and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Robert Thomson: You should be fine, but I'd check the forecast in making the final plan.

The reasons I think you should be fine: Along your route on Thanksgiving, there's no construction, no mall traffic, and relatively little local family visit traffic on the Interstates. (Although transportation officials do point out to me that I-95 in Delaware is the Main Street of New Castle County.)

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Andrea Sachs: Pilgrims, hope we tackled your traffic knots (thanks Dr. Gridlock!) and other travel questions. Be careful on the roads, rails and skies over the holiday, and have a great Thanksgiving. Hope to hear about your safe (!!!) travels on Monday, when we all return 10 pounds heavier.

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Arlington, VA: I'm driving up to NY from Arlington tomorrow morning. What time do you recommend leaving? Also, someone recommended driving through PA and avoiding 95. Do you recommend this? Thanks!

Robert Thomson: I think you're OK on Tuesday, though I'd still leave early and try to work the timing around the rush hours along that route.

And yes, most people who recommend the PA course are talking about getting off 95 at the Baltimore Beltway and taking it around to pick up I-83 on the northside and heading up to Harrisburg, where they pick up Interstates heading east. It's longer in miles, but tends to be less congested. Watch the weather, though.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone.

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